Researchers at Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center have found a link between taking vitamin C with insulin and stopping blood vessel damage caused by type 1 diabetes.
While neither therapy produced desired results when used alone, the combination of insulin to control blood sugar together with the use of Vitamin C, stopped blood vessel damage caused by the disease in patients with poor glucose control, said researchers.
The findings appear this week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
"We had tested this theory on research models, but this is the first time anyone has shown the therapy's effectiveness in people," said Michael Ihnat, Ph.D., principal investigator and a pharmacologist at the OU College of Medicine Department of Cell Biology.
Ihnat said they are now studying the therapy in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
The goal of the work being done by Ihnat and British scientists from the University of Warwick led by Dr. Antonio Ceriello is to find a way to stop the damage to blood vessels that is caused by diabetes. The damage, known as endothelial dysfunction, is associated with most forms of cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral artery disease, diabetes and chronic renal failure.
By reducing or stopping the damage, patients with diabetes could avoid some of the painful and fatal consequences of the disease that include heart disease, reduced circulation and amputation, kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness.
Insulin and many other drugs have long been used to control blood sugar, but Ihnat, in an earlier project with scientists in Italy and Hungary, found that cells have a "memory" that causes damage to continue even when blood sugar is controlled. By adding antioxidants like Vitamin C, Ihnat found that cell "memory" disappeared and cell function and oxidation stress were normalized.
"We have speculated that this happens with endothelial dysfunction, but we did not know until now if it was effective in humans. We finally were able to test it and proved it to be true," Ihnat said.
"For patients with diabetes, this means simply getting their glucose under control is not enough. An antioxidant-based therapy combined with glucose control will give patients more of an advantage and lessen the chance of complications with diabetes," the expert added.
While researchers do suggest diabetic patients eat foods and take multivitamins rich in antioxidants like Vitamin C, they warn that additional study is needed.